I tried the ‘Russian prison diet’ for a week

It’s not exactly Litchfield

My name is Lauren and up until very recently, I was an addict. I tried to fight it for months and months, not wanting to give in and jump on board with the new, millennial gateway drug that is Orange Is The New Black, but before I knew it I was three seasons in, cabbaged on my bed not having seen sun or civilization after binge-watching all the way up to the end of season four.

I now obviously considered myself 100 per cent prison ready, the same way watching Grey’s Anatomy is essentially the same as going to medical school (honorable certification from Netflix, obviously). So, this got me to thinking: with all the free time I have until the next season begins…. How hard could a prison diet be?

As soon as I looked up this up, I was greeted with the warm, reassuring warning that: “One  week prison food diet reveals problems with inmate’s meals: low cost, bad taste and very little nutrition.” Excellent. Somewhat sadly, this was just an overall perception of American prison food standards and thus came with no recommendable food plan to follow. That is until I found the ‘Russian Prison Diet’. In honor of Red, I had to try it out.

Day one

Typically, I start this somewhat minimalistic diet on a day I’m catastrophically hung over. The Diet Manifesto (that is literally what the meal plan is called – apparently Russians even take their weight loss super seriously) advises I’m allowed the following to start my day:

  • Two slices of dried toast
  • One boiled/fried egg (I’m allowed to add tofu, banana or zucchini if I’m feeling particularly adventurous)
  • Coffee or hot tea – can be alternated to skimmed milk or fruit juice.

You can imagine my disdain when I finally emerged from my vodka scented pit to be greeted by this:

(You’ll have to allow me to bend the rules a little here. I’m living in Prague where it’s more difficult than I could have ever imagined to find regular sliced bread without shopping in specialist stores. This is just a plain, cheap white roll).

Apart from being slightly heartbroken and hungry, I read on to find that the diet consists of the exact same three meals –this breakfast (that I could have added to today), a specifically tailored prison soup (more on that to follow) and nothing more than a ‘medium sized salad’ (though I’m allowed to season it to taste within reason and more soup.

Today has mostly consisted of food prep and sleep – at least it’s going to be a cheap food shop.

Days two and three

So the focus of the next two days is trying to nail this soup business. Ideally, what a clever person would have done was made sure they actually knew how to made soup before embarking on a diet that is 95 per cent made up of it. The Manifesto tells me the ingredients should be as follows:

  • One medium sized head of cabbage
  • ½ stalk of celery
  • One large green pepper
  • Two onions
  • Any other green, crisp type vegetables – you may also include some small, red tomatoes.

I immediately begin to feel pessimistic. With no mention of stock or anything else to make this much more than sad vegetable water, I’m starting to think it’s going to be a long, hungry week.

My first batch looks like this:

Again I’ve had to bend the rules slightly – I’ve replaced the celery with more zucchini simply because there was no celery in the store that day, and I’ve added kidney beans because they’re my secret food addiction (and aren’t too outlandish in the world’s most limited food plan). For a first attempt, given yesterday didn’t get any further than one egg and water thanks to the night before, I’m actually pleasantly surprised. I took the manifesto’s advice of adding salt, pepper and few herbs to spruce up the water stock and conclude that it isn’t much different to a regular detox. Low on carbs and protein, high in… liquid, basically.

I almost start to feel like I can ACTUALLY DO THIS. I’m pretty hungry again in about half an hour as the diet limits the soup intake to ‘two small cups.’ I’ve got that filling leafy salad to look forward to though and the snacking I’m allowed lends itself to one piece of fruit a day. The goal is to glug about five glasses of milk or juice a day too, though, so you’re never dehydrated.

Days four through six

There’s a running theme here when you’re encourage to bulk make your food. However, things get a little wild around hump day and the diet states I’m allowed to add – wait for it – WHITE MEAT OR FISH to my special soup. Is this the delicious cheat meal to fill my belly and my dreams I’ve been waiting for all week?

Spoiler alert: No it is not.

I decide to be extra zany on Thursday and throw some of the pre-approved tomatoes into the mix as well. Just as well I’ve got one of those super interested leafy salads to keep me going tonight.

The long awaited day seven:

I felt like this was the day that the Manifesto started to get a little hazy. But then again, that’s fair enough because I’ve developed that permanent, low blood sugar slump and all I ever think about is solid food so I guess I’m a little hazy too. The advice somewhat bypasses what I should be eating throughout the day, but I’ve made enough Special Prison Soup to feed a malnourished army so I just finish that off.

It’s then when the instructions get really excited over themselves and tell my grateful, hungry eyes that I deserve a ‘proper meal’. It’s also very congratulatory and tells me I should be proud of my strength of character etc etc, but obviously my main focus is ‘can we please get some meat inside of this girl?’

The diet recommends that if followed correctly, I stand potential of losing up to seven per cent of my body fat (but does state such results will be more likely within a longer period of following the diet). At the start of the special soup trial, I weighed roughly 140lbs. At the end of it, I weigh in at 135. Not a huge change but I’ve got to say I’ve had absolutely no bloat throughout the week and my stomach does feel slimmer.

If anyone’s looking for a quick and relatively healthy (all I’ve eaten is boiled vegetables, really) to de-bloat before the weekend, see if you can eat prison soup too. You’re going to feel a little like Piper when Red tried to starve her out in the first episode, though.